Album Cover Art

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Music is what matters the most, but cover art is also important for an album. It has been said that beautiful cover art makes an enjoyable experience that reaches beyond the music. The best covers manage to grab the attention of buyers and to convey the essence of the auditory sensations contained within.

The golden age of album art coincides with the reign of the long-play (LP) records, between 1960s and early 1990s. Many great visual representations from that era became as well-known and appreciated as the music.



Pink Floyd had almost (there are a few exceptions!) as many iconic covers as they had albums.

Their Dark Side of the Moon (1973) is simple, bold and recognisable the world over.

The Wall (1979) is Pink Floyd's second most immediately recognisable cover.

The visual art of Wish You Were Here (1975) is eye-catching and thought-provoking; it also reiterates some of the album’s main themes (rise of alienation vs. loss of human interaction and compassion, among others).


One of the most popular bands of all time, the Beatles, came up with some of the most iconic album covers.

The detail-rich Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) offers something new every time you consider it.

White Album (1968) was a deliberate contrast to Sgt Pepper’s; it only bears the band’s name on a white background. Appearing as it did in the middle of the psychedelic covers boom, it caught everyone’s attention. The early copies were numbered, but no one knows how many altogether, or how many of each number.

Abby Road (1969) is arguably the most recognisable album cover of all times. Almost half a century after it was released, visitors from all corners of the world want to pose on that zebra crossing for a snapshot (much to the chagrin of London drivers).


Many albums have the portrait of the recording artist – or artists - on the cover.

John Coltrane’s portrait on the 1958 Blue Train is an iconic image of a jazz legend in a… blue mood.

One of the best rock band portraits comes on the 1967 album The Doors. The collage is clever, the sepia-like nuances exquisitely dreamy, and the total effect highly stylised and a touch disturbing… as befits their music that exudes both sensuality and menace, as someone said.

The 1976 Ramones black and white cover photo tells you that the music of this ground-breaking punk rock group will be like their portrait: gritty, aggressive, fast and loud.
Grace Jones had a series of truly incredible cover images bearing her portrait. The three singled out here (the 1981 Nightclubbing, the 1985 Island Life, and the 1985 Slave to the Rhythm), convey, each in its own way, the essence of this artist: strong, beautiful, a little scary, funny, and seriously cool.


Occasionally, album cover designers ventured into adding another dimension. Among the most successful of them were:

The album The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967) by the artists of the same name featured an Andy Warhol print of a yellow banana in the middle of a stark white background. The earliest copies allowed fans to pull off the sticker to reveal a flesh-coloured banana beneath the peel.

The Rolling Stones’ album Sticky Fingers (1971) features a real zip. Many teenagers browsing through albums in a music shop innocently pulled on it, just because it was there… only to turn crimson when they realised what was on the picture.

Physical Graffiti (1975) by Led Zeppelin is one of the most elaborate album covers. On the outside is the photograph of an apartment building in New York with windows cut out. On the inside (beside the LP itself) are several sleeves that can be changed to feature different inhabitants of the building. It cost a fortune to produce and went right into our collective memory as one of the iconic album covers.

Some other album covers that are imprinted into the minds of the music lovers include Nevermind (1991) by Nirvana with the powerful image of a baby swimming after a dollar bill.

London Calling (1979) by the Clash has a photograph of the band’s bassist smashing his guitar on a concert (for real), epitomising “the ultimate rock 'n' roll moment: total loss of control", as one reviewer noted.  The seemingly incongruous green and pink (for a punk music album!) lettering was a homage to the cover art of Elvis Presley's first rock 'n' roll record.

Music lovers who had a chance to enjoy the powerful images while browsing through piles of LP albums bemoan the killing of the art of album covers by the advent of CD discs and digital music. True, cover art did not quite disappear with the decline of the LP. After all, both the CDs and purely digital albums need nice visuals too. Still, neither has the impact associated with an approximately 32 x 32 cm LP sleeve that you can hold in your hands.

Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why vinyl LPs are back in fashion and very popular on bidorbuy!

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